Movie Guide

NEW RELEASES
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (PG-13)

Director: Donald Petrie. With Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Adam Goldberg. (114 min.)

Staff *1/2 See review.

Kedma (Not rated)

Director: Amos Gitai. With Andrei Kashkar, Helena Yaralova, Yussef Abu Warda, Juliano Merr. (100 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Sterritt *** The time is 1948, the place is Palestine just before the establishment of modern Israel, and the main characters are Jewish refugees who have escaped Nazi extermination only to find themselves in conflict with British troops preparing for the partition of Palestinian land. As usual in his films, Gitai explores contested historical terrain from multiple points of view. The drama makes up in intellectual weight what it sometimes lacks in psychological interest and cinematic realism. In Hebrew with English subtitles.

Shanghai Knights (PG-13)

Director: David Dobkin. With Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Fann Wong. (114 min.)

Staff *** See review.

Zus & Zo (Not rated)

Director: Paula van der Oest. With Monic Hendrickx, Sylvia Poorta, Anneke Blok, Jacob Derwig. (100 min.)

Sterritt ** Three sisters investigate when their gay brother announces his impending marriage, fearing it's a ploy to obtain an inheritance they all covet. The characters of this Dutch comedy aren't very interesting or original, but it has a stylish look and spirited performances. In Dutch with English subtitles.

CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
About Schmidt (R)

Director: Alexander Payne. With Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney, Kathy Bates. (125 min.)

Sterritt *** After his wife's unexpected death, a retired man rethinks his future and reevaluates his past while traveling across the Midwest to his daughter's wedding. Nicholson's acting is awesome, and Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor haven't lost their ear for the empty aphorisms of middle-class speech.

Staff *** Jack is back, bittersweet, touching.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of partial nudity. Violence: 1 brief tussle. Profanity: 12 expressions. Drugs: 8 scenes with drinking; 1 with prescription drugs.

Biker Boyz (PG-13)

Director: Reggie Rock Bythewood. With Laurence Fishburne, Larenz Tate, Meagan Good. (111. min.)

Staff ** Smoke Galloway (Fishburn) is "King of Cali" - the best motorcycle street racer in California - and president of the Black Knights club. His mechanic's 18-year-old son, known only as "Kid" (Luke), wants the crown for himself and forms a rival biker club. Footage of the races and amazing stunts break up the sometimes tedious stretches in which Kid relates with his family, girlfriend, and biker pals, trying to live up to Dad's motto: "Burn rubber, not your soul." By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. 1 implied sex scene. Violence: 7 scenes, including accident, fights. Profanity: 19 strong expressions. Drugs: 9 instances of drinking, smoking.

Catch Me If You Can (PG-13)

Director: Steven Spielberg. With Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nathalie Baye. (140 min.)

Sterritt *** The mostly true story of a master impostor (DiCaprio) who passes himself off as everything from a Pan Am copilot to a Harvard-trained physician, cashing bad checks along the way - to the consternation of an FBI agent (Hanks) who spends years tracking him down. Spielberg doesn't have much talent for psychological suspense, but DiCaprio underplays nicely. Walken is superb as the con artist's downtrodden dad.

Staff *** Leo shines, zip and verve, stylish.

Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes with implied sex; 2 scenes of innuendo. Violence: Several scenes in which guns are pulled but not fired. Profanity: 7 harsh expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes of smoking, drinking, and illegal drugs.

Chicago (PG-13)

Director: Rob Marshall. With Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah. (113 min.)

Sterritt ** Two women of the Roaring '20s land on death row after killing men who've wronged them, and their friendship turns to rivalry when they go after the same money-minded lawyer to defend them. The music is irresistible, and who would have guessed Zellweger, Zeta-Jones, and Gere could hoof and croon with the best of them?

Staff ***1/2 Visual razzle-dazzle, clever choreography, strong acting.

Sex/Nudity: 1 sex scene; mildly provocative dance numbers. Violence: 6 scenes of mild violence. Profanity: 20 expressions. Drugs: 6 scenes of smoking, drinking.

City of God (R)

Director: Fernando Meirelles. With Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge. (140 min.)

Sterritt ** A young photographer records the terrible events and personalities that surround him in a Rio de Janeiro slum between the late '60s and early '80s, including a psychopath who runs a gang of kids. In its story and characters, this violent Brazilian drama recalls the Cinema Novo movement spawned by Brazil in the '60s and '70s. But its cinematic approach is as flashy as a Hollywood thriller. In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Staff ** Excessively violent, disturbing, compelling.

Sex/Nudity: 9 instances implied sex. Profanity: 137 harsh expressions. Violence: 44 scenes of very graphic violence, including bullet-ridden bodies. Drugs: 2 scenes of smoking; 15 scenes with illegal drugs, mostly cocaine.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (R)

Director: George Clooney. With Sam Rockwell, Julia Roberts, Clooney, Drew Barrymore. (113 min.)

Sterritt *** An apocryphal memoir by Chuck Barris inspired this partly true story, which blends his experience as "Gong Show" host with his ersatz secret life as a CIA assassin. Clooney shows imagination in his directorial debut, but the movie's driving force is Charlie Kaufman's screenplay, a genre-bending romp that blurs all boundaries between the factual and the fantastical. The picture would be better if it took a less jokey tone, though.

Staff **1/2 Brash, visual pizzazz, lacks insight.

Sex/Nudity: 8 implied sex scenes; 4 scenes of male nudity; 2 scenes of innuendo. Violence: 21 scenes, including shooting. Profanity: 81 harsh expressions. Drugs: 27 scenes of drinking, smoking.

Darkness Falls (PG-13)

Director: Jonathan Liebesman. With Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield, Lee Cormie.

Staff * The 1850s lynching of an innocent woman has provided a small Maine town, with a "tooth fairy" ghost-in-residence who sometimes attacks children the night they lose their last baby tooth. She also goes after adults who venture out in the dark. The largely Australian cast sounds American (but not Eastern) and does a good job of not breaking up while uttering inanities in one idiotic scene after another. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 25 scenes, including dead bodies and ghost attacks. Profanity: 4 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking.

Final Destination 2 (R)

Director: David Richard Ellis. With A.J. Cook, Sarah Hattingh, Ali Larter, Tony Todd. (100 min.)

Staff *1/2 Waiting for a red light, young Kimberly (Cook) has a terrifying, gruesome vision of a major freeway pileup. As the lead character did in the original "Destination," Kim acts on her precognition, blocking an on-ramp to keep would-be victims off the highway until the crashes are over. But it's not nice to mess with fate. Horrible accidents overtake survivors, one by one, as they theorize about how they can thwart death's plan. The movie becomes progressively less imaginative but no less grisly as it wears on. By M.K. Terrell

Sex/Nudity: Partial nudity. 1 instance of innuendo. Violence: 20 scenes, some very gory, including bad traffic accident. Profanity: 25 harsh expressions. Drugs: 9 instances of drinking, smoking, and illegal drug use.

The Hours (PG-13)

Director: Stephen Daldry. With Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris. (120 min.)

Sterritt **** Superb adaptation of Michael Cunningham's novel about three women - author Virginia Woolf, a 1949 housewife, and a liberated modern woman - facing emotional crises. David Hare's screenplay ingeniously translates the time-jumping story into cinematic terms, and Daldry's directing subtly orchestrates the motifs (kisses, parties, partings) that smoothly link the episodes.

Staff ***1/2 Masterly, superb acting, emotionally charged.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 3 scenes of suicide. Profanity: 2 harsh expressions. Drugs: 6 smoking scenes.

Just Married (PG-13)

Director: Shawn Levy. With Ashton Kutcher, Brittany Murphy, Christian Kane, Taran Killam. (95 min.)

Staff * A fairy-tale honeymoon in Europe quickly becomes a nightmare for a young couple through her father's attempted sabotage and the groom's boorish treatment of the locals. The principals try to breathe life into the old gags, and the scenery is magnificent, but the filmmakers are unable to marry these elements into a cohesive film. By M.K. Terrell

Staff **1/2 Slapstick, fluff, corny.

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances of innuendo. 2 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 8 scenes, mostly comedic, including assault. Profanity: 29 expressions. Drugs: 17 scenes with drinking or smoking.

Kangaroo Jack (PG)

Director: David McNally. With Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson, Estella Warren, Christopher Walken. (88 min.)

Sterritt * Two lunkheaded Americans fly to Australia on a mission for a mobster, and find themselves chasing after a kangaroo that's carrying an envelope stuffed with cash. Walken has a few good moments, but nobody else does, including the computer-enhanced title character. Hop to a different movie!

Staff *1/2 Go to the zoo instead. Poorly acted, silly, beautiful scenery of the outback.

Sex/Nudity: 5 suggestive scenes. Profanity: 12 expressions. Violence: 29 scenes, including kangaroo kicks. Drugs: 3 bar scenes; some smoking.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PG-13)

Director: Peter Jackson. With Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee. (179 min.)

Sterritt ** Frodo and Sam head for the dark land of Mordor to destroy the ring of power before evil Sauron can use it to enslave Middle Earth forever. The second installment in Jackson's trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien's marvelous novels is more effective than the first because it isn't weighed down with plodding exposition. Its greatest asset is Gollum, almost as creepy as he was in Tolkien's pages.

Staff *** Visually stunning, action-packed.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: None. Violence: Some graphic violence. Drugs: 2 scenes with pipe smoking.

Lost in La Mancha (R)

Directors: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe. With Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** Bridges narrates this hugely entertaining documentary about the unmaking of Gilliam's dream project, "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote," which went before the cameras in Spain only to be knocked out of production by problems including a flood that washed away sets and scenery, and noise from military planes that flew training runs overhead. This is a sad and funny true-life tale that speaks volumes about the difficulties of independent filmmaking.

Love Liza (R)

Director: Todd Louiso. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Jack Kehler, Sarah Koskoff. (93 min.)

Sterritt **** A desperately unstable man copes with his wife's suicide by doping himself up and letting his life fall apart. Hoffman's acting is poignant and compassionate, etching a sad character with no trace of compromise, and Bates gives one of her most controlled performances ever. Louiso is a hugely talented new filmmaker.

Staff *** Disturbing, poignant, uneven.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene of nudity. Violence: At least 3 scenes of violence. Profanity: 30 expressions. Drugs: 15 scenes of drinking or drug abuse, including gasoline sniffing.

National Security (PG-13)

Director: Dennis Dugan. With Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn. (90 min.)

Staff **1/2 Lawrence plays a cadet who flunks out of the L.A. police academy and falsely accuses a white officer (Zahn) after a bystander comes forward with a video that shows a Rodney King-type beating. They must put animosities aside when they wind up as security guards chasing a gang of thieves. Zahn and Lawrence make a good team in this parody of police buddy films while raising issues of racism and the reliability of amateur videos as courtroom evidence. By M.K. Terrell

Staff *1/2 Silly, predictable, dumb.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo and a partial strip. Profanity: 28 expressions. Violence: 16 scenes, including shootouts, slapstick violence. Drugs: 1 drinking scene.

The Recruit (PG-13)

Director: Roger Donaldson. With Al Pacino, Colin Farrell, Bridget Moynahan, Gabriel Macht. (105 min.)

Sterritt ** "Nothing is what it seems," says CIA boss Pacino before putting new recruit Farrell onto the trail of fellow trainee Moynahan, who may be a double agent but is otherwise the woman of his dreams. The first half comes up with nifty surprises, but suspense ebbs as the story sinks into standard-issue shootout and car-chase scenes. In the end, this tricky thriller is exactly what it seems - the umpteenth failed attempt to outdo "Three Days of the Condor," which flew higher in every way.

Staff *1/2 Unoriginal, well-cast, recycled.

Sex/Nudity: Several instances of innuendo. 2 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 7 scenes, including a kidnapping and beating. Profanity: 26 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.

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